‘The Leftovers’ Review/Recap: “Pilot”

Adam Reynoso ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Justin Theroux in The Leftovers. Photo Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO.
Justin Theroux in The Leftovers “Pilot.” Photo Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO.

Based on the novel of the same name by Tom Perrotta, HBO’s new series The Leftovers examines what happens after 2% of the world vanishes and how people in Mapleton are handling the event.

Just going off of that premise, the show has a hook to it. It has nothing to do with zombies, romance or possibly even the apocalypse, as most shows do nowadays, but instead it’s using the town of Mapleton to study how these people live after all these people have disappeared, without any answers at all. And with so many characters, it’s a chance to really explore what’s happening and what it would be like.

The pilot runs just over 70 minutes and uses the extra time to really tell its story. The opening scene is chilling by how sudden everything happens. It opens with a woman at the laundromat with her baby and on the phone. While getting ready to leave in the parking lot, her crying baby suddenly goes silent. She turns around to see he’s gone. It’s every parent’s worst fear, and to watch that happen as another child can’t find his parent and other people are calling out for the missing is a powerful way to open the episode.

Amanda Warren and Justin Theroux in The Leftovers. Photo Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO.
Amanda Warren and Justin Theroux in The Leftovers “Pilot.” Photo Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO.

It then skips ahead to three years later as the town is getting ready to have a memorial ceremony to celebrate those who disappeared. The show’s main focus is on the Garvey family, with each member involved in different aspects of the story. The family has also been torn apart as a result.

The strongest out of the four is the father and husband, Kevin, played by Justin Theroux. He plays the role perfectly and he seems to be at the brink of a breakdown. The city won’t listen to his warnings of the cult-like, chain-smoking, white clad Guilty Remnant and why they shouldn’t have the town’s celebration. He also just seems like he’s trying to hold it all together. He wants his family to be whole again, but that looks unlikely. At the end of the episode, it seems like he’s ready to accept the way things are now in a scene that seems like something straight out of a David Lynch film.

His daughter, Jill, is portrayed by Margaret Qualley and the look inside her world is vastly different from her father. The standout scene is at a high school party where the teens are playing the most twisted game of spin the bottle seen, where there are options to “burn” and “choke,” among other options. Jill seems to be jaded, affected by how these events have taken her mother away and what it’s done to her family. With her and the other high school kids, there’s a sense of desensitization by what’s happened. It’s almost like a generation that’s unsure of how to feel or act after 2% of the world just vanished. Especially when there’s no guarantee it won’t happen again.

Amy Brenneman in The Leftovers "Pilot." Photo Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO.
Amy Brenneman in The Leftovers “Pilot.” Photo Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO.

Then, there’s Tom, Jill’s brother and Kevin’s son played by Chris Zylka. He’s off somewhere far from the town with another possibly cult-like group. Little is known about what’s happening at the ranch that he’s at, but it’s being run by a possibly messiah-like character known as Wayne. All that’s known so far is that something’s supposed to be happening and Tom has to look after a girl named Christine, who he’s been bringing back gummy worms from the outside world. However, he doesn’t seem to be at such a good place as he’s seen screaming underwater, either frustrated or angry. Oh, and he’s ignoring his father’s calls.

Lastly, there’s the mother and wife, Laurie played by Amy Brenneman. She’s a part of the Guily Remnant and it’s with her that we get a look inside the group. They are a group that seems to want to make the disappearances seem irrelevant or unimportant. Their motivations are unknown, but at the climax of the premiere, they’re shown picketing the memorial with signs that say to “save your breath.” Just as weird, they’re given people to stake out and follow and possibly convert. But it’s an aspect of the story that should continue to develop into something interesting. Especially given how Laurie refuses to go home.

As pilots go, The Leftovers has started out smartly written and piqued interest in where the story will go. It has a strong variety of characters available to explore and different places it can study.

Overall Episode Grade: A


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